Do you work in the fashion circles of Ghana? Do you go to the various fashion shows and showcase, or model, or even organize them? Have you done this for months or years and still asked the question or questioned if there is even a fashion industry due to the fact you do not see any clear organization or financial benefits that can sustain your life style? Then the answer to your wonder is as our title states “Yes, It Just Doesn’t Include You”.
Working in Ghana, many people have asked if there is even a fashion industry. We see fashion shows once or twice a month, hundreds of models strutting their legs on the runway and not getting paid, the best of our best desginers are just capable of renting a shop after getting grants from the government, bloggers are making just about no money, photographers only survive on wedding shoots, and for everyone else from stylists, to make up artists to pr, they are just hanging around.
So it is easy to wonder if there is even a fashion industry in Ghana. Because these no money activities is not representative of an industry in anyway, this is simply a mixed circle of philanthropists, egotists, artists, aspirants that survive via their external activities or corporate sponsors, being everything but professionals. By saying that, it’s not to say they do not produce professional quality work or services, it’s to say only a handful can claim their role in the Ghana fashion as a profession or a full time occupation. So technically it’s just a group of friends and/or people that have a passion for fashion, or want to prove their are the Ghana version of something they saw on TV.
So doesn’t this confirm that there isn’t an industry? on the contrary it doesn’t. The reality is there is an industry, and this Ghana fashion industry is booming, it’s growing and there is lots of money coming in. Print culture is excelling and Ghana is the hub for it. Foreign countries are coming to Ghana for the fabrics and goods, and there are lots of exports being made.
The truth is the fashion industry in Ghana consists of the fabric producers, tailors, fashion boutiques, accessory craftsmen and so forth. Not the university fancy dressed students attending and walking on the runway. Those are just people that are enwrapped by the Western industry and wish to make it a reality in their country. And there is amazing work being done, however their effort and activities are disconnected from the interest of the general public, and that’s why it can not sustain and industry nor the individuals in it. And this is why in our short 3 years of blogging designers and others come and go, because even the top designer is unknown to the common Ghanaian.
Our business model and culture is different, in those countries, you have years of government intervention to develop the fashion institutions, years of policies by government to make sure their designers and creatives dominate their markets, years of fashion business focused education as oppose to our fashion schools here which are sewing and tailor based. You can’t just take the cap off the Western world and try to fit it on ours and expect all hairlines to fall in place. As glorious as the fashionista end of Ghana looks, the truth is the group of people standing around wondering if there is or isn’t a fashion industry are actually in the way of the real fashion industry. This is why some of our most successful designers in Ghana with shops across the country are some of the least popular in press and social circles, because they started off this the grass roots style of tailoring.
An industry is based on the economy, and it is created when people who wish to survive find a common skill or trade that they can apply to make resources to support their families and lifestyles, and then that progresses into and industry. As far as clothing in Ghana is concerned, these are the tailors and boutique owners, second hand clothing retailers, cloth importers, accessories craftsmen and more. A social group that is far removed from the more entertaining side which sees the fashion show organizers, models, agents and more. The bottom line is once the majority wear clothes, there is an industry. There is a thin line of how much might be pertaining or belonging to us, and that that is an extensions of others, never the less it’s in motion.
Most are from low class families, most uneducated or limited in such fields, and are not as flashy or fabulous enough to be in the same circles as the well dressed degree holding, internet savvy, fashion show attending, blogger, model, designer that came straight out of college, and began their fashion journey with no occupational plans insight, but simply because ‘Hey I like to do this’….And then after being hit by real life they start to ask…..Is There no industry in Ghana?
FashionGHANA began with the intent to give fashion designers an online platform to sell products online (www.fashionghana.com/shop) in the age where there were no online boutiques for African fashion. With the very limited corporation from the main designers, we took to the streets to help us get started. To our surprise we learnt this yielded much benefit that working strictly with designers. Not only financially, but corporately and flexibility. Even the thought working with the struggling designers of Ghana now feels like a charitable action. Ever since, we have become regular faces at various post offices from DHL to EMS. Sometimes we can even be there almost once a day throughout a week sending 2 to 3 orders.
Surprisingly in all our visits, almost every other person at the post office is sending off clothes in bulk or pieces. These are not the designers we blog about, these are tailors, shoe makers and more. We always make time to talk to them, many of them are working through small facebook or instagram pages and some doing so through whatsapp. These are students who sell kente nike shoes for $150, batik makers selling fabrics for $15 a yard, craftsmen selling bags for $100 and so forth. And some of these individuals look and dress no better than the hawkers on the street.
As FashionGHANA, we make contact with them and start working with them giving them a platform through our online boutique and advising them on how to increase and price their products correctly. These are the people who make the Ghana Fashion industry, they are the people who are converting dollars, pounds and euros into cedis. They are Ghana’s fashion industry, a booming industry, of which a lady at the post office informed us that the visitation to the post office has increased almost 5 times as much within the past couple of years and its due fashion. Mind you this is also shortly after FashionGHANA was launched and became the prime source online for promotion print fashion and making it trendy when no other fashion media did.
On the other hand, the fancy dress folks are heavily indulged in gossip, bloggers are angry no one will pay them so they only blog about their friends activities, a number of models engaged in extreme competition, some even offering sexual favours for unpaid jobs only to do free work to promote themselves so they will grow to do more free work, designers can’t be bothered to send their look books or news to websites or press some don’t even know they have social media, photographers do random photoshoots and don’t shoot with designers clothes because the designers don’t pay them so they would rather shoot the models in second hand clothes or mainstream brands as if that pays them, and neither do they send them to blogs and/or magazines because magazines don’t pay them so they put fake editorial style credits as if it was for a magazine or blog….as if that pays them to, model agents playing mind games and making money OFF models instead of making money with models, and event organizers that don’t pay anyone are awaiting MTN, Stanbic Bank, Car dealerships and more to help sponsor us to execute no profitable activities. So everyone is back talking each other for all sorts of reasons when the reality is the animosity exists because there is no money for anyone. (Don’t be offended, it’s generally speaking and might not apply to you)
If one is to take a seat back and analyse from an outside observers point of view, this separation and disconnect stems from a class division. The less fortunate establish a culture of making money through talent and trade whilst the more affluent attempt to mimic a lifestyle seen out of their economy irregardless of it’s ability to generate resources. Hence the quick rise and falls of various businesses. This is not to say all on one side make a certain amount of money and belong to a certain class, but the culture and circles reflect that that division. We are not going to see tailors, local boutiques, members of the arts center and Makola market at your regular fashion show, despite them being the real gate keepers of African fashion.
I am not a know it all and I do not have a solution for everything, but if Ghana fashion is to progress, the more affluent individuals are going to have to learn that their items on the runway shows and look books is not define Ghana fashion. Fashion is trend setting, something a mass number of people follow. Aside 2nd hand clothes, The only trend setting items are those we see distributed in our high streets print clothes, that is what defines Ghana fashion here and abroad.
This is far from downplaying the fancy end with models, bloggers, show organizers, and more, the efforts are immaculate! But it’s like having a fancy car without petrol that we are pushing. The more affluent end of our fashion world such as Bloggers, fashion show organizers, designers and other strategists need to focus attention on how to merge their efforts with our craftsmen, and work with them to establish a unified fashion scene irrespective of class which, is actually what most Europeans do when they come here on fashion missions. Inability to do this will eventually lead to the tradesmen naturally adopting better managerial skills, social media habits and more, connect with the locals and foreign businesses and sooner or later push out the non relevant parties.
Accra Fashion Week is acting as part of a resolution, with over 700 (and still rising) boutiques owners set to participate heavily in the event and begin replacing their Chinese and Italian products with creativity by our Ghanaian Designers. AFWk will also be partnering with maunfacturing houses to ensure designers can produce what is demanded post fashion week. In closing, yes there is a fashion industry, and it’s growing. If you are in Ghana and into fashion, the question is are you part of the industry? And if not how can you be?